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SNAP into Action

“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry….?”  (Jesus, Matthew 25:41, NRSV)

It melts in the mind, not just on the tongue.  It’s bliss in a bowl.

Yam and carrot puree is Thanksgiving for me.  Our friend Molly introduced it to us years ago, and my wife Roberta has been making it ever since.  Since our family celebration on Thursday, we’ve been savoring the remains of this bright orange fluff infused with butter, cream, and nutmeg.

It will be a sad day for us when that bowl is empty.

It will be a much sadder day for food-insecure people in America when and if the Trumpublicans succeed in decimating the SNAP (food stamp) and school lunch programs with a $4.2 billion annual cut.  The motto of their proposal,  “Do Right and Feed Everyone”, is a lie:  “A study by the Urban Institute released this week examined the three rules in combination for the first time and found that 3.7 million fewer people would receive SNAP in an average month, 2.2 million households would see their average monthly benefits drop by $127, more than 3 million others would see an average drop of $37 per month, and 982,000 students would lose access to free or reduced lunches.” (NBC news) 

Jesus told his followers that by feeding the hungry, they were feeding him.  And he wasn’t challenging them to pretend to feed the hungry.  It wasn’t a feel-good slogan he was promoting.  He was challenging them to be actually effective in feeding the hungry.

And today, the only way to do that in America is through the SNAP and school lunch programs… funded at a level that makes them actually effective in assuring that everyone gets fed.

Food distributed by charity is a small but vital part of the equation in eliminating hunger.  There are people in America who can’t get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food stamps because of their immigration status.  There are others who are waiting to get on food stamps, or who have assets they can’t unlock fast enough to be able to afford food in the short term.  And SNAP benefits are modest indeed, so many people need supplementary food sources.

But to think for one second that charity can replace government assistance is to live in dreamland.  Consider the food drive.  You go to the store with its organized food and dis-organize your selections into your shopping cart, buy it, reorganize the food at home into what you’ll keep for making yam and carrot puree and what you’ll put into sacks for charity.  The food charity takes your donation, re-organizes it once again, and distributes it to the hungry.  The hungry come and dis-organize the food once more and take it home.  This is a spectacularly inefficient way to distribute food.  There’s just no comparison between the charitable food sector and the efficacy of sliding a SNAP card at the grocery store register.

The Trumpublicans intend to sort out poor people into categories of “worthy” and “unworthy”, and cut off the “unworthies” from benefits.  But this charade is both immoral and grossly wasteful of resources that could be used to feed the hungry, here in one of the richest nations on earth.  Lots of “worthies” will be left out of benefits along with the “unworthies”, because of bureaucratic hurdles.  Morally we must err on the side of feeding people who do things we don’t like.  Jesus made no such distinction:  the Christ appears to us in the faces of seemingly well-behaved and ill-behaved people alike.

So before the leftovers run out, let’s take action and register our objection to the cuts in food programs proposed by the current government.  Comments will be taken by the Dept. of Agriculture until Monday.  You can keep it simple:  “I oppose these proposed cuts to SNAP and school lunch eligibility, access, and benefits.”

JIM BURKLO

Website: MINDFULCHRISTIANITY.ORG   Weblog: MUSINGS   
Follow me on twitter: @jtburkloSee the GUIDE to my articles and books

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